View Full Version : Looking for a way to expand upon character backgrounds

2019-06-12, 05:17 PM
Going to begin DMing a new game with my group in a few months, and I'm going to be starting them out above 1st level (atm thinking 3rd, maybe higher depending on where i finalize the direction of the game.)

I want the players to put forth effort in creating characters, above and beyond selecting a background and the traits given. I'd like something they can fall back on if a random PC asks about something from their past, or that I could pull an old friend/enemy from for a small side mission/encounter.

I was considering using the background generators from Xanathars Guide to Everything (5e D&D if this wasn't obvious), but many of the options are tied to a very specific class option, and aren't as universal as I would like.

I also plan to reward anyone who goes the extra mile and gives me a full background I can work with, extra starting gold, maybe even a cool Lowe end magic item for the sake of flavor.

Does anyone know of a resource for this sort of a background generation system? Similar to the XGtE tables, but a bit more open ended for weirder character concepts not in that book? System neutral, or even ones from completely different games are fine, as long as they're available for free somewhere. I don't want to spend money on this.

2019-06-14, 05:15 AM
How about the ten minute background?

I don't know anything about XGtE, but I don't think this is similar to it. Anyway, it seems that it could help you meet your goals.

2019-06-14, 06:09 AM
Oftentimes with character backgrounds, you don't want to overdefine. The more that's nailed down ahead of time, the less you're able to adjust on the fly to accommodate the other players of the needs of the campaign. The archetypal example of this is every player making a character in their own, only to find that there are fatal interparty incompatibilities.

Ask for a thumbnail sketch, because that's a good amount of background when introducing one part of an ensemble cast.

2019-06-14, 06:47 AM
My 2 cents:

- Have you though about making a origin story / time skip? It's a little cliche, but making a first session at level 1 with the PC still students/apprentice (and almost no background), and then making a 10 year time skip to level 3 (asking the players to fill the blank) when they meet again ?

- In our last campaign, the DM talked to each of us to determine "what would be the worst fear/regret/enemy that could come out of our past" so that he could build specific nightmare for our PCs, it worked quite well. Family issues (mother who want the PC to be a perfect princess), broken promises (deserter), errors (wife dead because of magical experimentation), ... That really put some depth to the characters. Note that he waited few sessions to do so, so that we had a clear an idea of "how we want our character to react" before answering.

- During one of the first session, put them into a situation where they need contacts to advance (maybe they are in a trial and they need peoples to help them out, maybe they are investigating and they need a way to bypass the administrative process, ...) and suggest them to come up with NPCs they might have reasons to know. Players are much more likely to find themselves a rich background and say that "they used to sneak up at night in the library while being teen" when they're desperately searching for a reason why they might be friends with the librarian.